Trench Warfare7:30 AM
There’s a story of an American general in the War of 1812 who planned on attacking the British. His were the superior troops, at least as numbers go; the outcome had practically predetermined itself, but still he charged them: Would they surrender? No, they wouldn’t.
So he packed up his men and retreated.
(If I remember correctly, the President fired him for incompetence.)
Contrast that to every tear-jerker war movie where they held out to the bloody, bitter end. They became the heroes. They earned the prize. They fought the good fight against all odds. We wouldn’t have blamed them had they given up—after all, hopeless was hopeless—but that makes them all the more heroic.
I thought about this, in the shower, of course (my friend and I have this theory going that all the best thoughts enter the brain when the head is thrust under that elevated spigot)—thought how I had given up that week. Just completely went crabby and grumpy. Just sat by myself. Just cried. Just pushed away everyone and everything—
—all when victory was mine: “Take heart,” Christ told us: “I have overcome the world.”
Interestingly, the small fights seem the most disheartening: we stop fighting for joy, stop being thankful, stop spreading love, and close inward, surrender, give up like everything’s hopeless.
A big lesson I learned this year: It’s never hopeless. I have fought out of depression, out of darkness, out of pity, out of fear and doubt and guilt—and it’s never hopeless.
A friend described Christian growth not as doing all the right things and rarely feeling tempted but as getting out of the temptation as quickly as possible. It’s trench warfare. Spirits climb high and fall low, and how many lows we experience in a given moment don’t matter as long as we climb out of them as soon as we fall in. The fight isn’t fought on spiritual highs and happy days, but crawling through the pit, upward, always upward.
When we’re tempted, when we trip into (or walk into, on particularly horrid days) the trench, that blaring we hear? That’s not the call to retreat. That’s the sound of victory.
So many times I’ll have a good streak of daily morning devotions or a few wonderful days of prayer, and then all of a sudden, I just won’t. And instead of girding myself for battle, recognizing that of course Satan would target me now when my walk with the Lord is developing stronger, I flop onto my bed. Horrible, horrible me—I just don’t love the Word! Despicable wretch that I am—won’t I ever grow up? Why me, why me, why me?
Can you just see all the true heroes giving each other glances at their comrade giving up before the battle begun—the battle we are destined to win?
The question we shouldn’t wonder at during a trial or a tempation is whether we will win. Of course we will. It’s guaranteed: Christ has conquered Satan; Satan has no power over us; God is all-powerful; God does not allow temptation too hard for us to bear; the devil will flee if we resist him; and strength is ours for the asking. Winning is obviously obvious.
The only variable is the duration of the trial or temptation, whether it’s a fleeting thought which can die with a quick parry, a more lengthy hand-to-hand combat, or an all-out, lifelong battle. But giving up—that is unthinkable. It’s more than unthinkable: it’s absolutely ridiculous.
As ridiculous as retreating right before the victory.